A couple of days back, a PTI report stated that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a directive to television viewership measurement body, Broadcast Audience Research Council, (BARC) India. "According to the source privy to the development, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has shot off a fresh salvo at BARC, and in a strongly worded directive has asked it to furnish compliance by February 25, 2019, failing which, appropriate action would be initiated under various sections of the TRAI Act," stated the PTI report.
Today, BARC India released an official statement in response. "To set the record straight, BARC India has not stopped publishing its viewership data. Every week, at 11 am sharp, all our subscribers have been getting all-India weekly data without a hitch for the last 175 weeks, including the last 2 weeks that correspond to the NTO transition," reads the statement.
The response further stated, "However, we have published data of last 2 weeks with the caveat that there are changes taking place on ground due to NTO (New Tariff Order) rollout due to which viewership numbers will be volatile during the transition period. The India Society of Advertisers (ISA) too has advised its members that our data should not be used for media planning and buying in the transition period."
The PTI report stated that TRAI believes BARC India has breached certain guidelines laid down by its governing bodies. "BARC India has modified its Fair and Permissible Usage Policy in February 14, 2019, even after being repeatedly asked by the authority to not stop publishing of rating data and viewership data on its website during the migration to new regulatory framework until and unless explicitly permitted by the authority and are thus, in contravention of the direction of the authority dated December 21, 2018 and January 14, 2019," said the TRAI directive as seen by PTI.
BARC India, in its statement, mentioned that its position is aligned to guidelines of its governing body, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. "The guidelines clearly say that ...data generated by the rating agency be made available, on paid basis, to all interested stakeholders... And Sharing of the data/reports with a third party or in public domain be allowed subject to the fair usage policy of the rating agency. Such fair usage policy shall be provided on the website of the rating agency."
On February 7, 2019, BARC India released the viewership data of week 5, 2019, on its website, as usual. From week 6, the television viewership auditor stopped publishing the data on the BARC India website. It uploaded a note on its site stating, "In light of information of TRAI's New Tariff Order and on ground changes, BARC India's viewership data will be released only to its subscribers, until further notice."
As per the directive accessed by PTI - TRAI reminding BARC India that it is governed by the provisions of TRAI act, stated, "Now... the authority... hereby directs Broadcast Audience Research Council to immediately release and publish viewership data for the week ending February 8, 2019 and weeks subsequent to it, on its website without any further delay and not to stop it in future also without explicit instruction/direction from the authority or Ministry of Information and Broadcasting..."
BARC India's statement, mentioned that it publishes a limited amount of data on its website for the larger benefit and information of trade and media. "We temporarily held back release of this select headline data on our website. We did this purely to avoid mis-representation of such data (Top 5 channels/programs etc.) without looking at the larger context of NTO rollout and resulting volatility which could be misleading, lead to confusion and be counter-productive," reads the statement.
BARC India's statement concludes saying, "TRAI has advised us that we should also consider resuming the display of top channels and programs data on our website. We are taking a considered view on that post consultation with our stakeholders."
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